Seventy-two years ago, Normandy was invaded by the Allied Expeditionary Force. Paratroopers were dropped on each flank, including the men of 1 Can Para who dropped on the left flank with the Brits. Five assault divisions attacked over the beaches, with two British, one Canadian–the Third, and two American. Canadians had the second highest casualties.
The Canadian infantry found two things when they arrived. The first was, in spite of meticulous planning, all of the main resistance nests were untouched by bombing or naval gunfire. The second was that supporting amphibious tanks had not arrived because of rough seas, being released from too far out and German fire. The infantry were alone: no smoke, no prep fire, no tanks, no supporting fire. As Charlie Martin recounts, on the Queen’s Own Rifles front, there were ten assault craft all alone, heading for the beach. The armada was over the horizon and they couldn’t see either assault battalion to their right or left.
Other assaulting battalions were the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, the Canadian Scottish Regiment, 1st Hussars, the Regina Rifle Regiment, and the North Shore Regiment.
The Canadians got through the beach defences and made it inland to their first day objectives, the only troops to do so.
“Many a good man lost a young and promising life that day.” Many had been training for four years to die on the Normandy sand within minutes. Black humour was provided by a Canadian officer who received a war-ending wound as he stepped off the assault craft and cursed at the top of his voice until he was evacuated, several hours later. I don’t blame him.
These men fought to make a better world, but my opinion is different. Their sacrifice stopped the world from becoming much, much worse.